Saturday, March 2

Senate confirms new Joint Chiefs chairman, bypassing Tuberville blockade

Washington — The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as Joint Chiefs chairman Wednesday night, with a vote of 83 yeas to 11 nays, breaking through Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s months-long blockade on military promotions and confirmations. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set Senate floor votes for Brown and two others Wednesday, Gen. Randy A. George, to be chief of staff of the Army; and Gen. Eric Smith, to be commandant of the Marine Corps. George cleared a procedural vote 92 to 1 in the last vote Wednesday night. 

Late Thursday morning, the Senate will vote on George and then proceed to a procedural vote on Smith, with a final vote on Smith slated for 1:45 p.m. 

Tuberville has been blocking Pentagon promotions and confirmations over a Pentagon policy to reimburse out-of-state travel for service members seeking abortions. Schumer is holding votes Wednesday night on Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, nominated to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;  

So far, the Senate has overwhelmingly confirmed Brown, 83-11. 

Tuberville made it clear that he’ll continue to place a hold on the rest of the military nominations and promotions.

“So to be clear, my hold is still in place,” Tuberville said on the Senate floor Wednesday. He said he’ll lift his hold when the Defense Department changes its policy.

On X, Tuberville posted, “One of us was bluffing. It wasn’t me. Democrats are taking the same action they could’ve taken months ago. As long as the Pentagon keeps the unlawful elective abortion policy in place, my holds will remain.”

Schumer’s move comes after Tuberville sought to force a vote this week on Smith’s nomination, according to a source familiar with the effort. Republican Sen. John Kennedy confirmed the existence of a cloture petition — a first step in ending debate on a matter — and said he signed it. 

Usually, military promotions requiring Senate confirmation are carried out in blocs by unanimous consent. Bringing each of the hundreds of nominations to the floor for a vote would prevent the Senate from taking up any other legislation for months.

Tuberville has been single-handedly stalling confirmations and military promotions — affecting scores of rank-and-file military officers — in protest of a year-old Pentagon policy that helps fund service members’ out-of-state travel for abortions. The hold is in its sixth month and now impacts more than 300 general and flag officers, including nominees to lead the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Army, the Air Force and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senate rules make it possible for a single senator to hold up votes, like Tuberville — a freshman senator and former college football coach — is doing. Tuberville’s stall has sparked outrage from Democrats, who accuse him of jeopardizing national security. 

“I’ll be blunt: The actions of the senator from Alabama have become a national security nightmare,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said last week. 

Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a veteran, said Tuberville’s blockage is undermining national security and “handing a public relations gift” to Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Some Senate Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have expressed reservations over Tuberville’s blockade, too.

Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the oldest veterans organization, has urged Tuberville to lift his hold on the “routine promotion of military generals and flag officers.”

Tuberville’s blockade becomes even more time-sensitive at the end of September, when Gen. Mark Milley must retire as chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, as required by law. 

Until the Senate confirms his replacement, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Chris Grady, will serve as acting chairman. President Biden has nominated Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown to replace Milley.

Tuberville, however, seemed unaware that Milley must leave his post after his four-year, nonrenewable term is up. Last week, he said he didn’t know if Milley would “go anywhere” until someone else was confirmed. When Tuberville was told Milley had to leave by law, he responded, “He has to leave? He’s out. We’ll get someone else to do the job.” 

Jack Turman and Alan He contributed to this report. 

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